This Week in Logistics News (August 17 – 23)

What is this inverted yield curve talk all about? Well, I know a little about it. A little bit. Does it mean that a recession is coming? No. Does it indicate that a recession might be coming? Maybe. A yield curve is an XY plot of the annualized yields of US Treasury securities at different maturities. Typically, the longer the maturity, the higher the yield. An inverted yield curve is the terminology for the reversal of this relationship between yield and maturity. Historically, there has been a positive relationship between yield curve inversion and a subsequent recession. However, there are a number of theories about the term structure of interest rates that attempt to explain the relationship between maturity and yield. Regardless, expectations about the economic growth at a given point in the future is a few steps removed from a direct explanation for an inverted yield curve. Of course, economists tend to disagree about a lot of topics. I recently read a blog post from the fixed income chief investment officer at Franklin Templeton investments. I like her perspective – namely that we are witnessing a bit of hysteria at the moment.

Now on to this week’s logistics news:

Descartes Systems Group announced on Wednesday that it has acquired BestTransport, a cloud-based transportation management system (TMS) provider focused on flatbed-intensive manufacturers and distributors. The company offers a full TMS suite of solutions from contract rate management through to load building, shipment execution and freight payment, with extensive capabilities for flatbed transportation moves. BestTransport is headquartered in Columbus, OH. Descartes acquired BestTransport for $US 11.2 million, net of working capital, satisfied from Descartes’ existing line of credit. This acquisition follows Descartes’ June acquisition of STEPcom, a business-to-business (“B2B”) supply chain integration network provider based in Switzerland for CHF 19.3 million.

Pirates abducted eight crew members of the MarMalaita multipurpose freighter off the coast of Cameroon. The ship flies the Antigua flag, but is managed by the German company MC-Schiffahrt. Additionally, three of the crewmembers are reported to be Russian nationals. This abduction occurred right around the same time and proximity as an abduction of crew members from the Greek-managed VICTORY C. Kidnapped sailors are also reportedly Ukranian and Chinese nationals. These pirates are assembling quite the international coalition of adversaries.

Starship Technologies, a provider of autonomous robot-based restaurant and grocery delivery services, announced a new round of investment funding that will be used to expand its delivery services to more university campuses. Starship, in partnership with Sodexho, rolled out its delivery service to George Mason University and later on Northern Arizona University. The University of Pittsburgh and Purdue University are next in line to receive the service. I must admit, university campuses appear to be a great use for the application of this technology-based service, due to the dense population, demographics (convenience-loving, fast food eating college students living in dormitories without kitchens) , and physical layout (walking paths, etc.).

Doordash, the last-mile delivery technology company, is reported to have acquired Scotty Labs. Scotty Labs, a California-based technology start-up focused on “accelerating the safe deployment of autonomous vehicles.” The company states on its homepage “We are building a human-centric autonomy stack which seamlessly blends the safety assurances of teleoperation with the durability of autonomy. With a focus on maximizing revenue per truck and minimizing cost per mile, we are solving the biggest pain points of the trucking industry.” It is unclear if Doordash plans to apply Scotty Labs technology to the last-mile food delivery problem or to expand its reach int broader transportation services.

Sticking with the autonomous vehicle theme, PlusAI, a self-driving truck start-up is reportedly in talks to raise $200 million in funding, with an implied company valuation of $1 billion. PlusAI is raising the round to help it set up a joint venture with Chinese truck maker FAW Jiefang, a subsidiary of state-owned China FAW Group Co. I consider that potential joint venture to be newsworthy in itself. PlusAI plans to showcase trucks with level 2 automation in the near future.

Have a great weekend everybody!

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